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Tallit

The Tallit (or prayer shawl) is a very personal religious object. At the beginning of the service we drape the tallit over ourselves and recite this blessing. The tallit has the tzitit, corner fringes, which we are supposed to wear on any four corner garment we put on our bodies. These fringes direct our attention to the 613 mitzvot (commandments) that are mentioned in the Bible and that we are to follow. The tallit also helps us direct our thoughts inward to our prayers during the service.

Birkat Hamazon

Birkat hamazon, the blessing after the meal, is also known colloquially as "benching," the English version of the Yiddish term bentshn, which means to bless. This blessing (which is actually a series of blessings) is mandated for use following any meal in which bread has been eaten, since according to Jewish law, eating bread officially constitutes a meal. Birkat Hamazon can be said sitting at the same table or in view of the same table where the meal was eaten. At weddings or Shabbat meals, it is often said communally.

Shema/Vahavta

One of the most ancient prayers recited by Jews is called the K'riyat Shema, or the recitation of the Shema, meaning "Hear!" In the Torah, Moses declares, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone" (Deuteronomy 6:4), which has become the quintessential statement of Jewish monotheistic belief. The Rabbis ordained the recitation of the Shema and a series of additional selections from the Torah each morning and evening.

Hand Washing

In Temple times there were elaborate rules in connection with ritual impurity. If a person had been rendered impure through having come into contact, say, with a dead rodent, he contaminated sacred food such as the tithe given to the priests, which must then not be eaten. The way in which contamination of this kind could be removed was through immersion in a ritual bath.

Havdallah

At the end of the Shabbat day, when three stars appear, it is time for the brief ceremony of Havdalah (literally, separation or distinction), at which time we take leave of Shabbat. Our rabbis teach that on Shabbat, we are given an extra soul. At Havdalah we relinquish that extra soul, but hope that the sweetness and holiness of the day will remain with us during the week. We take a cup of wine, a box of spices, and a beautiful braided Havdalah candle, and we sing or recite the blessings.

Erev Shabbat Candle Lighting

In traditional homes the Shabbat Candles are lit at home by the woman of the house. In liberal synagogues this home ritual was brought into the Erev Shabbat service as a sign of the community welcoming Shabbat with joy, light and warmth. The ritual of Shabbat Candle lighting is very old, going back to Mishnaic times. (circa 200 C.E.)

Barchu

The Barchu is the call to worship alerting the congregation that the prayer service is now leading up to the affirmation of God in the Shma.

Amidah

The Amidah is the focus of every Jewish prayer service: Shaharit (the morning service), Minhah (the afternoon service), Ma’ariv (the evening service), Musaf (the additional service on Shabbat and holidays), and Ne’ilah (the concluding service on Yom Kippur).

Oseh Shalom

The text of Oseh Shalom is commonly found in liturgy such as the Amidah, Kaddish and Birkat HaMazon. It is, at it's core, a song of peace.

Motzi

Technically, a meal is considered any repast in which bread is consumed, so Jewish meals begin with the blessing over bread and then the sharing of bread together. The accompanying blessing is widely known to most Jews, who have heard it since childhood and who may even have memorized it just by having said it so often.

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